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Mack the Flack

Our blog, Mack the Flack, explores PR, journalism, and communications trends in the digital age

Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Deadly Digital Distractions

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Mack’s daughter can start driving this summer. It’s going to be a stressful summer. It’s not her new skill that worries him; it’s all the other distracted drivers.

This month the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) reported that distracted driving is the top cause of youth vehicle accidents. Over the past five years 34% of young drivers 16 – 21 years old involved in crashes resulting in injuries or deaths were distracted.

While young women were less likely than young men to be involved in a crash, when women were in an accident it was most often because they were distracted drivers, says ICBC.

On average 39 young people are killed and 7,100 are injured in vehicle accidents each year in BC. Increasingly the cause of the crashes is driving while texting, talking and being online.

35 Million Free Images (Lemur Selfie Included)

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Mack added “Selfie” to his laptop dictionary this afternoon after reading about a 12 year old lemur at the London zoo named Bekily who, grabbing a camera from a zoo keeper, snapped several photos, including a pretty good selfie.

The animal’s easy adoption of digital technology happened on the very same day the world’s largest photo agency, Getty Images, announced it would share more than 35 million images from its vast library for free.

Getty will now allow online, non-commercial, sharing of its news, sports, entertainment, archive and stock photos for personal and educational social media and blogging use.

According to the agency the decision is in response to widespread and copyright-flouting use of its images online.

Happy 25th www

Monday, March 17th, 2014

A belated happy 25 years for the world wide web this month. It was on March 12, 1989 that a British inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, (now Sir Berners-Lee) first proposed to make information sharing possible via a worldwide web of linked computers.

For those too young to remember the screech of a dial up modem, the agony of waiting for images to load line by line and a time before Google when you instead had to “Ask Jeeves” here are 9 ways the www has changed our world:

  1. Staying in touch with loved ones, almost anywhere on earth
  2. Finding the answer to random questions
  3. Avoiding lineups at stores, banks and ticket counters
  4. Self-diagnosis of life-threatening diseases
  5. Job Hunting
  6. Dating
  7. Binge TV/Movie watching
  8. Running a business
  9. Protesting, whining, and oversharing

Empty CUP

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Old style journalism, built on outdated technology, advertising and news consumption habits, is hurting.

So it didn’t surprise Mack – who started out as a reporter for the Carleton University student paper decades ago – to learn the Canadian University Press (CUP) student newspaper network will cut all 12 of its part time staff this week.

Started as a news sharing cooperative in 1938, CUP charges a substantial fee to act as a news curation source for student newspapers across Canada. Something any undergrad with a smartphone can now do for free.

Cup’s desperate financial shape – it has lost 35 of 90 student newspaper clients in the past decade – is just the latest example of old media’s fight to stay relevant in the digital age.

To make matters worse CUP was recently audited by Canada Revenue Agency and ordered to pay a $9,000 fine for incorrect taxes.

Which means, unfortunately for CUP, the only certainty is death and taxes.

Best Digital Friends 4eva

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

According to studies by Pew and UCLA, Mack’s daughter, as a teen, has an average of 300 Facebook friends, 79 Twitter followers and sends more 3,000 text messages a month.

And all that social media activity is changing the way many teens regard privacy and friendship. While many teens are taking steps to protect their identity online others have a limited understanding of privacy policies, geo-location services and the perils of sharing contact information.

Today’s teens also rely on social media to make and connect with friends, often getting social support through their growing social media networks.

Gone are the hours of after school telephone calls and weekend slumber parties of the past.

As the UCLA study observed about social media using teens: “The whole idea behind intimacy is self-disclosure. Now they’re doing self-disclosure to an audience of hundreds”.

Bad Times at the Bookstore

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Mack recently met with a textbook publisher’s representative. It didn’t go well. Mack explained that students no longer need to purchase outdated, overpriced textbooks. Instead they find digital alternatives to shelling out for printed textbooks.

A few days earlier the Alliance for Audited Media reported that, in the third quarter of 2013, single copy sales of Canadian consumer magazines have dropped by nearly 13%.

Poor textbook and magazine sales are not news to the SFU bookstore. This week the bookstore revealed its sales have dropped about 9% annually for the past two years. Worse still, it projects further declines for the years to come.

Turns out students, when given digital choices, choose not to purchase printed textbooks and magazines.

Surveying the Totally Obvious

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Academic research often offers surprising results.

For example research by the SFU PR program revealed that, despite increased social media responsibilities job satisfaction among 84 per cent of the Vancouver PR professionals surveyed had either increased or remained the same.

Other academic research reveals the obvious. Some examples for the National Post’s annual list of pointless research are good for a laugh:

• The University of Liverpool concludes that the biggest sources of anxiety and depression are traumatic life events

• A study by the University of Maryland determines that many underage youths use false ID to buy alcohol

• A University of Japan investigation reveals that cats ignore their owners

• Academic research published in Public Library of Science concludes toddlers know the rules of sharing but don’t follow them

The Social Media Horse Has Escaped

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

According to Inside Higher Ed the International Studies Association (ISA), the body representing political science professors, has proposed a policy that would forbid editors of its scholarly journal from personal blogging.

That’s right, no blogging.

The association will vote on the proposed policy in late March.

Reaction has been swift. One Carleton University prof calls the proposal “really strange” in 2014.

A Tufts University political science prof predicts rejection of the policy, calling the idea “at best draconian, and at worst, an infringement of academic freedom”.

Academia trying to prevent personal blogging in the digital age reminds Mack of the futility of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

It ignores reality and counters a growing movement to rethink how scholars engage the public.

Tech Creep Costs More

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Mack learned a new phrase today – tech creep. It’s the unstoppable intrusion of expensive new technology into everyday life. From internet-linked fridges to “smart” big screen TVs we’re under constant pressure to acquire the latest, costliest “have-to-have” technology.

Parents of elementary school-aged children and car owners everywhere are about to learn, first-hand, just how expensive tech creep can be.

• A recent survey of 5,400 kids in Canada reveals 25% of grade 4 and 40% of grade 6 students own a smartphone.

• Car manufacturers are close to replacing windshield wipers with jet fighter style ultrasonic devices which will keep windshields dry and clean.

    Replace a $50 car part with technology costing $2,500. That’s tech creep.

    Reimaging University in a Digital World

    Friday, January 24th, 2014

    No more teachers, no more books…as the online world continues to reshape our world universities seem next in line for massive changes.

    Mack notes three digital education trends:

    • Online courses and programs are increasingly popular – possibly someday leaving lecture halls and computer labs empty and irrelevant.

    • The growing trend of institutions, or, in the case of BC, entire governments, offering free and low-cost textbooks has cut into already slumping on campus bookstore sales.

    • Online learning hubs such as one introduced in Ontario, offers access to online courses which are fully transferable between provincial universities and colleges, potentially greatly reducing the need for faculty across provincial systems.

    Needless to say not everyone who builds universities, runs university bookstores or is on faculty are thrilled by, or convinced of, these digital innovations.

    When the Ontario government recently announced its $42 million Centre of Excellence for Online Learning to deliver online courses the body representing Ontario faculty associations criticized the move, saying the government should have included faculty input in planning the initiative.